Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sweepin' Ain't Easy ... Said No One at Citi Field This Weekend

After looking deflated and defeated in losing three games to their division rivals in Washington, the Mets came home for a four-game series this weekend against the Chicago Cubs, who have been the best team in baseball all season.  The series would mark the 58th time since 1962 that New York and Chicago had squared off for four consecutive games.  And in their first 57 four-game series, the Mets had taken all four games just one time.

But thanks to some timely hitting, effective pitching and a monster 6-for-6 game by Wilmer Flores, that is no longer a true statement.

New York completed a four-game sweep of the Cubs today, defeating the North Siders, 14-3.  They scored seven runs in the second inning to give Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester his shortest outing in over 300 career starts just one day after he won the National League Pitcher of the Month award for the just-completed month of June.

The Mets won the four games by blowing out the Cubs twice (they also defeated the Cubs, 10-2, on Friday) and taking two nailbiters on Thursday and Saturday, both by a 4-3 score.  Basically, they continued their dominance over the Cubs that began last year during the four-game NLCS sweep.

But as great as the Mets have performed against the Cubs over the last eight months, they had only won every game of a four-game series from Chicago just once in 57 tries.  In 1985, during the first series between the two teams after their battle for division supremacy the previous year, the Mets brought out the brooms against the Cubs in a four-game set at Shea Stadium, allowing a total of just four runs in the series.

Screen shots or it didn't happen.  (Courtesy of Ultimate Mets Database)

The Mets went on to win all nine games they played versus Chicago at Shea Stadium in 1985, taking a three-game series in August and a two-game set in September.  But the four-game sweep marked the first and only time New York had won every game of a four-game series against the Cubs in the team's first 54 seasons.  Until now.

And if you want to say that it's very difficult for any team to win four consecutive games in the same series against the same team, perhaps you should know what the usually lowly Cubs have done against the Mets in four-game sets since their first one in 1962.

That first four-game series in June 1962 at the Polo Grounds resulted in four Cubs victories.  It should be noted that the Cubs finished that campaign with a 59-103 record, which was - and still is - the worst regular season record in Chicago's long history.  (The 1966 Cubs also went 59-103.)

A year later, the Cubs swept another four-game series from the Mets, this time at Wrigley Field.  Then in 1965, the Cubs added a third venue to the four-game sweep-a-thon, taking four straight from New York at Shea Stadium.

It then took nearly two decades for Chicago to win all four games of a four-game series against the Mets, but they finally repeated the feat in 1984, scoring 32 runs in the four August games at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs had previously pulled off four-game sweeps against three awful Mets teams in 1962, 1963 and 1965.  However, the 1984 Mets squad won 90 games.  It wasn't just pushover Mets clubs that were experiencing the wrath of the Cubs in four-game sets.

Let's now fast forward seven years later to 1991.  On August 9, the Mets went into Wrigley Field with a 57-50 record.  They were still very much alive in the race for the N.L. East title, entering the game just 5½ games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates.  But the Cubs, who were struggling and under .500 entering the series, took out their frustrations on the Mets, winning all four games.  The sweep was the beginning of a season-changing 11-game losing streak for the Mets.

It was déjà vu all over again for the Mets in 1992, as once again in August, the Mets were still in the race for the division crown - they were 7½ games out of first - but were swept four straight in Chicago.  That sweep was the beginning of a 21-35 stretch for the Mets to close out the season.

With the Cubs moving to the N.L. Central in 1994, the Mets and Cubs only played five four-game series from 1994 to 2014, with none of them resulting in sweeps for either team.  But in 2015, the Cubs pulled off a four-game sweep of the Mets at Wrigley Field in May.  Of course, we all know how that season turned out for the Mets.

So that means the Mets suffered four-game sweeps to the Cubs seven times from 1962 to 2015, returning the favor just once in 1985.  Once.  In fifty-four seasons.

But now that number has gone up to two, as the Mets have just completed a four-game sweep of the Cubs at Citi Field - the only venue in which the Cubs have yet to turn the trick against the Mets.

Sweeping a series of any length - particularly a four-game series - may not be easy, but don't tell that to the Mets.  They treated the series the way Cubs used to treat four-game series against the Mets.  And in doing so, fans got to witness something they hadn't seen the Mets do as a team since 1985.

The Cubs are the cleanest team in baseball after they just got swept by the Mets.

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